Edinburgh, travel guide, scotland, arthurs seat, A Belly Full Of

Climbing to the top of Arthur’s Seat and being blown away of the views of Edinburgh!

Over the Easter weekend I spent a glorious 72 hours in Edinburgh with my partner in crime Josh, and wow, what a gorgeous city. I switched off my social media for the weekend to truly enjoy this incredible city and now I am sharing my top tips for eating gluten and dairy free, and what to see and do, in this city.

Scotland, Arthur's Seat, Bryony Hopkins, A Belly Full Of

That fresh air makes one very happy!

It helped that I was absolutely inundated with suggestions of great places to eat and drink, and for a relatively small city, we were absolutely spoiled for choice! Having said that, most of our finds were on the hoof as we explored, so I hope these gems add to the ever-growing list of allergy friendly places to eat in Edinburgh.

Friday PM and Eve

Edinburgh streets were just gorgeous. This taken on Victoria Street.

So after settling into our gorgeous Air BnB (see below for my tips on accommodation in Edinburgh!), we went on a wonder in the city and came across the pizza parlour Amarone, recommended by the lovely Gluten Free Gatherer and I just had my heart set on pizza for dinner, so we booked ourselves in for that eve. We were also famished, so we stopped off at a brilliant little coffee place called Fortitude Coffee where I had a sticky toffee loaf, which was vegan and gluten free with a black filter coffee. Delissshh and easy to miss, although that loaf was the only allergy friendly option.

Black americano and sticky toffee loaf. The icing was YUM!

Onto dinner and I absolutely loved Amorone (recommended by my pal, the Gluten Free Gatherer!). I went for a chicken and pepper number, without cheese and on a gluten free base and was very impressed. None of this rubbery or tasteless base business, this was extremely crispy. Definitely would recommend!

Unfortunately no vegan cheese, but still delicious with a tomato base

Saturday
The morning started in the search of breakfast, and having been recommended Urban Angel a 1000 times, we tried to grab a table. Unfortunately, they don’t take bookings and we were too hungry to wait 45 mins so ended up in a closer café, which wasn’t great for GF or DF, but did do black tea and a veggie fry up! Luckily we stumbled across a market where I found Missy Vegan Cupcakes and picked myself up a vegan and GF chocolate tiffin, which was HUGE.

This was essentially the fuel that got me to the top of Arthurs Seat! Which I definitely recommend as an activity in Edinburgh – it’s a surprisingly hard climb but absolutely worth it. The views from the top are just insane!



After such a wild trek up to Arthurs Seat (it had been raining all weekend so was a rather treacherous climb, absolute mud bath!), we needed some proper sustenance so found ourselves in a lovely little pub called High Street Number 1 on the Royal Mile. At first glance, it didn’t look like they did much allergy friendly, until we spotted the gluten free fish and chips! Served in GF batter and fried in a separate fryer, this was a GF dream.

It would have been rude to visit Edinburgh trying some of the local booze (I mean, we’re only human!), so we walked a little further up to the Royal Mile where we tried some of the gin offering at a small pub called The Albanach. Edinburgh Gin (this is an actual brand, not just gin from Edinburgh!) was an absolute find. So many gorgeous flavours, so good paired with Fever Tree Tonic. My fave was Rhubarb and Ginger. SO GOOD.


 

Sunday

After waking up with a slightly sore gin head, we were on the prowl for one thing only, BRUNCH! We headed this time towards Leith, as our apartment was just positioned in perfect walking distance between Edinburgh city centre and Leith on the coast. The Roseleaf was positioned just past the canal and WHAT A GEM! Disguised as a rustic pub, this spot did the best brunch skillet I’ve ever tasted and the menu was extremely well labelled for allergens. I went for the vegetarian breakfast skillet, served with a toasted gluten free muffin. The real stars of the show were actually the choice of juices and hot drinks. First we went for the ‘Red Cappuccino’ – a twist on a classic chai latte but infused with more cinnamon and ginger. I had mine with soya milk and it was beautifully rich and creamy. Then we went onto the juice menu (because you know, holiday) and particularly loved The Heartbeat (pomegranate, apple and raspberry) and the coconut crush (pineapple, coconut water and apple). Would definitely recommend this gem!

For dinner we headed to an incredible artisan Italian deli that was right next to our apartment called Valvona and Crolla. Think high ceilings stacked with wines, cured meats, pastas, sauces and fresh vegetables. They had a whole row of fresh Italian gluten free pastas, so we picked up some bits for a night in at the apartment. Served with a bottle of red it was the perfect (albeit) unusual Easter Sunday dinner.


Monday

With only the morning left we had to fill the time the best way possible, BRUNCH! We headed to Urban Angel which I had been recommended by near enough everyone for a great gluten free brunch! We had to wait 40 minutes for a table, but the delicious gluten free bread did not disappoint. I mixed and matched, with smoked salmon, poachies and Portobello mushrooms on the plate paired with one of my fave hot beverages, turmeric latte. Gorgeous.

Travel (London to Edinburgh)
So there is much discussion about the best way to get to Edinburgh and as it was our anniversary weekend (5 years!), we splashed out on first class tickets on Virgin Trains and I honestly couldn’t recommend this form of travel enough. You literally hop on at Kings Cross and it’s only four and half-hours into the centre of Edinburgh. Complementary beverages and sandwiches are included(unfortunately not GF or DF), so make sure you stock up on snacks from Waitrose or M&S at Kings Cross. We probably paid about £150 each for a first class return, which was definitely worth it for the space and free wifi!

Accommodation


I really didn’t know anything about Edinburgh before this trip, so wasn’t sure what or where to go for in terms of accommodation. However, Josh & I are massive Air BnB fans (honestly best places I’ve ever stayed in Copenhagen, Amsterdam, Marbella etc), so we booked an apartment about 8 mins walk from the train station on Brunswick Street. The apartment was gorgeous and owned by the friendliest couple, Pat and George. They left milk in the fridge (for Josh obvs), cereal and the place was immaculate. Perfect location to walk into the city centre, as it was only about 15 minutes. Check out our apartment here.

Would love to hear if you use any of these travel tips in your future travels to Edinburgh!

 

Check out my Pitstop Guide to Copenhagen for more travel tips!
BRYONY HOPKINS, A BELLY FULL OF BRYONY

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Last night I posted a spontaneous story sharing how I was feeling as I go through a bad patch with my Crohns Disease. What started as a raw moment of honesty ended up with me somehow ended up going off on a tangent, stating the fact I still take medication for my Crohns Disease and I am not ashamed to say so. The replies and outpouring of people thanking me for being so honest was incredible. A couple of people told me they had fought against taking medication themselves, because it seems like a ‘goal’ to be med free and this got me thinking. What world do we live in that there is a whole tribe of people boycotting medical intervention? And not only that, there are people on social media who are willing to tell us we are wrong to take medicines, based on absolutely no scientific evidence? In fact, in response to the story I posted I received a message telling me I should try another natural remedy and if I did, I wouldn’t need medication. That literally sums up the entirety of the problem we are facing. It really has me scratching my head and feeling desperately sad and worried about the way the ‘wellness’ word is shaping how we feel about meds…

It seems bizarre to me that I even have to state that it’s okay to take medication when you have a chronic illness and when I said it on my Instagram story; I really wasn’t expecting such a reaction. Inflammatory Bowel Disease is an autoimmune, which literally means your body is attacking itself. It is completely irresponsible to think that no medical intervention for such a venomous disease is needed. This has really made me quite concerned that anyone reading or finding my story online might be lead to believe that I have ‘cured’ my Crohns through diet alone, because this is absolutely factually incorrect. I won’t recap my life story, but please do read my whole Crohns story here.
So here are the facts. I have been on medication pretty consistently and in some form since I was four years old, even since I have done my liquid diet and since I had my ileostomy reversed. I take humira injections every fortnight and I have just finished a course of mesalasine suppositories for constant bleeding (these are unpleasant, think of pills that go up instead of down!) I take Ondansetron on days when I feel so nauseous I might pass out, a drug which is used for cancer patients and I have done all of these things since I went totally gluten and dairy free, and since I upheaved my lifestyle.

Bryony Hopkins

No amount of dairy or gluten free would have meant I didn’t need the surgery I have needed.

So what is it about wellness and health on social media that has led us to feel like we should be ashamed of taking medication? And why have even I, at points, felt like a failure because I still have to take medication alongside my dietary and lifestyle changes, otherwise my intestine literally might disintegrate? This is such a hard question to answer but I think its two main reasons.

  1. We know of several hugely successful health bloggers and Instagrammers who have made their fortune based on ‘curing’ their chronic illness through diet. Whilst they may not have directly said they don’t take meds, it has lurched us towards this ideology that it is possible for us all to achieve this goal, whilst we forget that every single one of us is completely different and unique.
  2. We want a message that is clear and simple. I.e. – ‘you can put your IBD into remission if you’re gluten free’ or ‘if you’re vegan you won’t suffer from your psoriasis’. These claims are wildly dangerous and not evidence based BUT they are clear, and so they gain attraction. It’s the same as a punchy news headline. The message ‘I am gluten and dairy free but I also take injections, and suppositories and anti-sickness tablets and to honest sometimes I still don’t feel great’, is a less eye-catching strapline.

So where does this leave us? It leaves us angry, defensive and confused. I should say at this point that I honestly believe I have radically changed my quality of life due to making some diet changes, but has my Crohns gone? Of course not. Am I still on medication? Yes. And what happens if I stop my medication? Well, things fall apart pretty quickly. I believe diet is an absolutely integral part of dealing with a disease which manifests in the gut, but I feel angry and upset that social media has led us to a point where we feel like we can boycott medical intervention because someone slid into our DMs to tell us better.

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I have tried every treatment, up heaved my lifestyle and still rely on meds. That’s just IBD!

So if you’re reading this and follow me, I really hope you know and appreciate that I enforce all dietary and lifestyle changes alongside medical advice recommended by your doctor. Sometimes of course, we make our own decisions regarding medication/surgery/treatment – but this isn’t me saying to ignore the advice of medical professionals. And if you take medication to stay on track of your life, then own it! The clear message here is that every single one of us is completely individual and unique. What works for one person, might not work for another, especially with a disease as complicated as IBD, and so we should remember that when we are flicking through social media.  Anyone can say anything these days – so make sure you are getting your information from a reliable source.
Do I hope one day I might not need medication to keep me well? Of course. But I just want to live a full and healthy life – and at the moment, my meds help me do that (most of the time!)
As one of my wise followers DM’ed me ‘If diet was the answer to cure IBD, we would all be well!’
BRYONY HOPKINS, A BELLY FULL OF BRYONY

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Rich dark chocolate, rice flake porridge, gluten free, dairy free, vegan

Quick, simple, delicious and easy on the stomach. Dark chocolate and berry porridge

This recipe is an absolute winter warmer and totally indulgent. I mean dark chocolate for breakfast? Errrr, hello!
Top secret ingredient is the source of the dark chocolate, making it totally delicious and rich.
So, how do you make this badboy you ask? Read below…
Serves 1. Dairy free, gluten free and vegan.
Ingredients 

  • 50g rice flakes
  • 250ml of nut milk (I used almond, but hazelnut or cashew would be equally delicious)
  • Handful of frozen berries
  • Handful of Montezumas dark chocolate… or some other good quality dark chocolate
  • Mixed chopped nuts
  • Date syrup
A Belly Full of Bryony, Dark chocolate rice flake porridge

Divineeee

Method

  1. Place the rice flakes and the almond milk in a bowl and mix together.
  2. Pop your frozen berries in a small pan and heat on a medium heat. Add a little date syrup to sweeten and let the berries soften.
  3. Put in the Microwave for on full power for two minutes.
  4. Once the rice flake and milk porridge is done, take it out of the oven, give a quick stir and leave to stand for a minute. This is important as it thickens as it stands.
  5. Your fruit should be softening now and looking bubbly and warm. Take off the heat.
  6. Take your dark chocolate (in my case, secret ingredients, Montezumas dark chocolate buttons!), and pop them into the porridge. They will melt instantly with the heat of the porridge, giving you a lovely gooey mixture.
  7. Pop on the warm berries, sprinkle over the chopped nuts and squeeze over the date syrup. Bon appetit!
A belly full of Bryony, dark chocolate rice flake porridge, gluten free, vegan

Dark chocolate buttons are my secret ingredient, but really you can use any good quality dark chocolate.

BRYONY HOPKINS, A BELLY FULL OF BRYONY

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We saw in the New Year at Sky Gardens – a day I felt good and it was bloody brilliant.

I’m not sure if it’s too late to say Happy New Year, but seeing as this is my first post of 2018, I feel it’s appropriate to say!
My new year started with a bit of a bump, as all of you who follow me may know I have Crohns Disease, which I write about quite regularly. This little hiccup has really reaffirmed to me that all I ever really want each year is good health. Health to be happy, good health to live my life and good health to enjoy every day to the fullest.
I’m sure many of you fellow Crohnies will relate to knowing that you’re really operating at 50% and so, I have compiled a list of 10 things it’s okay to feel when you’re going through a bad patch with your chronic illness.

  1. It’s okay to stop and admit you feel like s**t
  2. It’s okay to lean on your friends and family
  3. It’s okay not to be strong all the time
  4. It’s okay to cry
  5. It’s okay to be angry
  6. It’s okay to want to talk about it, over and over again
  7. It’s okay to look after yourself and be antisocial
  8. It’s okay to research and understand every single treatment and medication possibility
  9. It’s okay to jump to the worst conclusion and mentally prepare
  10. It’s okay to be frustrated when people don’t understand

 These are some mantras I’ve had to keep reinforcing for myself recently, particularly as my body is fighting so hard; I am sometimes too exhausted to be rational (cue literally tears about everything, putting slippers on wrong way, jumper back to front.. you get the jist!) Although, I think the above could apply to many life situations and I think it’s important to remind each other that we don’t have to have a brave face, everyday.

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31st December 2017. Always sparkles. Always optimistic.

So although 2018 hasn’t started as I wished (sick days, hospital appointments and spending too much time resting), every bump on the road reminds me what to be grateful for and helps me remain positive that the blip will pass – and the year will continue with ease. These mantras help me hold onto the good days – and try to forget the bad days.
It really is true, that the greatest wealth in life is health.
BRYONY HOPKINS, A BELLY FULL OF BRYONY

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A dinner experience like no other, I recently was privileged enough to try the Tasting Menu experience at Pied A Terre. The restaurant has one magical Michelin star and is located in the middle of Soho – right by Goodge Street Station. Scroll down to the photos for a course by course visual feast and read about the experience below…

A light seafood mousse with seafood cracker.

Canapés to start: A light seafood mousse with seafood cracker.

Canapés to start, Bryony Hopkins, A Belly Full Of

Canapés to start, beetroot and celeriac puree.

Asimakis Chaniotis is the man behind the menu and the executive chef of the restaurant, which is owned my restaurateur David Moore, who is regularly, greets and serves guests front of house. I’m not entirely sure where to start with the dining experience, as it was completely overwhelming and delicious.
Pied A Terre is understated from the outside, but was beautifully dressed for the festive season, and the shiny red Michelin placard placed outside. I attended with a fellow journalist and blogger, and we were treated to the 7 (!!) course tasting menu, PLUS 2 rounds of canapes and a palette cleanser. And bread. Wowza, yes.

Bryony Hopkins, A Belly Full Of - Gluten free bread at Pied A Terre

Gorgeous gluten free bread, with greek dipping oil.

The attentive waiters poured us still water, before swiftly bringing these little morsels over to the table. The kitchen was already aware I was gluten and dairy free, and we received these dainty fish mousse canapés and a beetroot and celeriac puree.
In front of us they also placed some delicious gluten free bread, and some dipping oil for me instead of tarragon butter. The oil was deliciously thick, and later when I met Askimakis, he told me it was from his hometown in Greece, located just above Athens. This fact alone shows the love and attention that goes into every ingredient, and its source is particularly important to authentic flavour.

Bryony Hopkins, A Belly Full Of

A palette cleanser before the tasting menu began, a fresh fennel salad.

We were then served a palette cleanser of fennel salad and this was all before course one of the tasting menu had even begun! Treated to seven delicious courses, which you can see below, I was blown away by the sheer quality and attention to detail of the food. Literally – food art! And it tasted pretty good too.

Bryony Hopkins, A Belly Full Of, Pied a Terre

Mylor prawns with dashi (Japanese cooking stock), yozu, soy and wasabi. Yumm!

Bryony Hopkins, A Belly Full Of, Pied a Terre

Poached duck egg yolk with fresh rocket salad and butternut squash.

Bryony Hopkins, A Belly Full Of, Pied a Terre

My favourite course – Octopus with squid ink, sweet pepper puree and spring onions.

Bryony Hopkins, A Belly Full Of, Pied a Terre

Cornish plaice with courgette and baby onions. Simple and delicious.

Bryony Hopkins, A Belly Full Of, Pied a Terre

After all that and this was the main course!! Roasted partridge two ways with red cabbage and cranberry (no bread sauce for me!)

Bryony Hopkins, A Belly Full Of, Pied a Terre

When you can’t have cheese or crackers – what else? Vegetables! With sweet puree.

Bryony Hopkins, A Belly Full Of, Pied a Terre

Palette cleanser before dessert, delicious sweet raspberries with raspberry puree.

Bryony Hopkins, A Belly Full Of, Pied a Terre

And finally – dessert!! Blood orange with mandarin, mango sorbet and a meringue dome. Divine.

Overall, I have to say one of the most impressive elements of our meal was the sommelier – Oliver Christie. He handpicked the wine for each of our courses, and tailored them depending on what dish we had (some of mine which were allergy friendly were different to my pals!) He gave us each one, let us enjoy it, and then came back to tell us more about it. Did you know the signature smell of a Reisling is a sniff of petrol? Or that the Japanese white wine that came with our first course was one of the best I’ve ever tasted? (It was a 2016 Koshu Kayagatake for the wine buffs amongst you – listen to me sounding like I know what I’m talking about!) He presented such information in a fabulously informative way and really made the experience go that one step further. And knew so much about all the wines on a thirty page wine list!! I just about manage to pick a Pinot Grigio from Sainsburys supermarket shelf…
Head chef Askmakis also took us downstairs to the kitchen, which was amazing to see the end of service take place, even if it was just for a second. A dining experience like no other, I would strongly recommend a special dinner at Pied a Terre, particularly the Tasting Menu Experience with wine pairs. It’s not a cheap night – at over £100 a head, but worth it for something really very special.
I would definitely family and friends back to sample the A La Carte.
BRYONY HOPKINS, A BELLY FULL OF BRYONY

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